Blue Mars – User Experience Now

The download:
While there are only a few places to visit, you have to download them all prior to starting the program. The first day of open beta that amount is 1.3G. Mildly frustrating now as I download just to take updated screen shots for this post and check out the new UI, its going to get even worse as time goes on.

This is a trade off and I’m not certain what they will do in the future about it. One of the many reasons why SL is more lag invested than your standard MMO is that normally all the assets are optimized and on your computer already. It takes a while to load once you port in; you have to dl the assets of every person around and continue to do so as more people port in. And as we all know after spending enough time in SL and porting around, you have to clear all that information out.

So your download is going to be long, and will only get longer each content update but the trade off is more detailed areas with less lag. The annoying part is in the future when you need hard drive space for cities you don’t like and never want to go to. Another downside of this is that it means it’ll take until the next update for new content to be added, which is unheard of when we are used to the immediate update of SL. Does this mean only cities and not user created content items? Only time will tell.

The Zones:

When you log in you get to the above screen. You click on a floating picture to choose a city. While this isn’t so bad with so few places to go, it’ll get frustrating quickly as more are added.

So, right now you have 5 different cities/zones/whatever you want to call them to explore. 2 of them are games and rather fun for a short time. The other 3 are empty cities, pretty but empty.

Graphics / Avatar / Camera:

The graphics are stunning. The shadows, textures, water, and the way the clothes and hair move are amazing.

You can not change your avatars shape other than the face. Hands down this is probably one of the things I’ve heard about the most. From what I’ve seen from scouring the wiki, there is a high probability that people will be able to make and skin a skeleton in a 3d program and sell it as a package. There is so much more you could do with that way beyond the sliders we have in SL.

So other than all looking like Ruth except for the face (ok the standard av does look better), current hair and clothing options are seriously limited. However you do have some immediate make-up tweaking that isn’t exactly simple. Changing from the horrid purple eye shadow to a more neutral black wasn’t too difficult to figure out.

cosmetics editor

The camera (like general MMOs) is locked to the avatar. Those of us who spend most of our time in SL alt-zooming around will find it extremely tedious to walk everywhere. Who knows if this will be changed in the future?

Shopping / Inventory Awesomeness:

I’m going to kind of gush here for a few mins so just bear with me. Bloody hell this is what has been missing from SL. No more shopping for 3d clothes/shoes/whatever on a 2d box. They are fully rezzed on mannequins where you can actually walk around them to see it all. Since there is only 1 shop that I could find, I’m not certain if this is standard or if the city dev set it up this way – though the shoe shop that is no longer also worked like this.
clothes display

If that isn’t enough for you, you can click on it to bring up a browser of sorts where moving the mouse will rotate it:

No longer do we have to remember the names of items in our inventories. A picture is right there for you:

Sadly though, there just isn’t much to play with due to the complete lack of content.

BM has a built in animation overrider where you can change the walk, idle stance, emotes, dances, and everything else found in the animation menu:
built in ao

Granted the animation editor hasn’t been released so I haven’t been able to play around with much of this yet. The idle stances currently are very annoying and twitchy short loops that are on a much longer timer than SL’s 5 stances. Depending on lots of factors, this is better or worse. For instance, if animating a sway works better in BM and we are able to upload longer anims that aren’t constantly moving we can do some interesting things with this.

Another annoyance is activating an animation or dance as you have to go into the animation menu. Plus the ability to expand the list is non-existent at the current time. Though they do have a scripting language so content fixing this may be in the future.

One thing to note, you can easily shake hands with someone by clicking on them.

Apartment Living:
New to the open beta is the model apartment and being able to play around with moving furniture bits around. It’s pretty simple: just right click to bring up a menu, choose “move”, move your mouse and a highlighted version of it moves, left click to place. To rotate it, you have rotation arrows that you click on. Here is my sound free demo:

In The End:
Like I keep saying, there isn’t much to do right now unless you are a registered dev. Unless you really like walking around empty cities. There are people (sometimes) to chat with, and it’s better now that there is a chat box instead of just the chat bubbles.

The next post will be about content creation. I have it partly typed out, but it’ll be at least a week until I have time to finish it.



One Response to “Blue Mars – User Experience Now”

  1. Great blog. A few answers for you.

    We have a plan for doing incremental updates of the client (with patches) and the city content, as well as items, anims, etc. This already started with the 5MB Patch we issued a couple of days ago. The updates will mostly be just new content or patches, with a major client update once in a while. But the client is not as large after you take out the city content.

    In the future, the city content will download only for cities you go to.

    As we get more cities, we will implement the Places Browser that we’re developing now. It will help you find places, and more.

    We’re working on the software for creating and uploading skins, avatar shapes, animations, and hair. It all just takes time.

    We’re looking at the strategy for cam movement based on feedback and input from the community. As we see from the binoculars in Crysis, it is possible to zoom in the CryEngine, but how difficult it is to program is the question.

    You can easily run animations by typing in the chat box, for example: /jump

    Enjoy Blue Mars and spread the word!

    glenn sanders | community director | Avatar Reality

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